By Mike Rosso
Since 2006, a group of volunteers named Salida Mountain Trails (SMT) have been steadily increasing the number and quality of non-motorized, multi-use trails in the Salida vicinity.
The latest addition to the extensive trail system harkens back to the early days of mountain biking in the area. Back in the 1980s, mountain biking was beginning to be taken up by more and more riders. It offered an off-road, nature-based experience. Two early Salida pioneers of the sport, Don McClung and the late Mike Rust, developed a loop trail on the backside of Tenderfoot Mountain on Bureau of Land Management property. It was steep, rocky and challenging, especially in the pre-suspension days of the ‘80s, and named The Sunset Trail by another early Salida mountain biker, Jack Chivvis.
McClung, a bike designer and builder, began riding what he called “a faint animal game trail,” in a 1988 Mountain Mail story about the mountain biking opportunities which were opening up back then. Unfortunately, the original trail disappeared in private property and was eventually abandoned as new, legal trails began popping up.
Fast forward to 2017 and SMT set their sights on the old Sunset Trail and resurrected parts of it. This September, the .8-mile Rusty Lung Trail was officially opened, the name being a nod to both McClung and Rust. It is rated moderate by SMT and gains about 260 feet in elevation in a relatively short period of time. The views of town and the surrounding mountain are spectacular, and the trail itself offers two rock gardens, rollers, berms, numerous grade reversals and other features. As with all other SMT trails, it is open to hikers and runners, who should be cognisant of the fact that the trail will get a lot of bike traffic. SMT requests that bikers yield to all other trail users.
Rusty Lung begins on Spiral Drive and climbs to the intersection of where the Lil’ Rattler and Backbone trails meet at County Road 173.
I recently had an opportunity to hike the new trail with a friend and I couldn’t help but notice all the hoots and hollers emanating from the bikers who were getting their first taste of the trail, a great addition to the ever-growing network of trails to be found just outside city limits.
For more information on the Salida Mountain Trails system, visit salidamountaintrails.org